In accordance with a statewide vote in 2004, tribal governments and Oklahoma honorably forged gaming compacts covering a new business model accompanied by the attendant uncertainty.
Soon thereafter, heavy sums were borrowed to finance the construction of tribal casinos. Multiple borrowings in excess of $200 million became routine in eastern Oklahoma as the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Quapaw tribal nations began building modern casinos at great investment. Along the southern border, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribal nations were borrowing heavily to invest in gaming venues across the Texas border.
At no time did Oklahoma endure financial exposure or risk from borrowing and repaying these tremendous sums of money associated with tribal gaming. At no time did Oklahoma financially contribute or otherwise participate in these commercial ventures.
Said another way, Oklahoma has no financial skin in the game whatsoever.
In 2004, the tribal nations were dependent upon a small cadre of experienced attorneys guiding them carefully into new territory. Today, the quiet strong confidence exhibited by seasoned united tribal leaders is bolstered by advice provided by a much larger body of experienced legal expertise.
In contrast, the Oklahoma governor is largely without sound legal advice. In his own words, he knows contracts. The attorney general and a prominent Cabinet member have bailed on him.
In addition to billions of dollars paid in the form of Oklahoma exclusivity fee obligations, every elected tribal leader can share personal stories of charitable giving necessitated by Oklahoma's moral failure to accept financial responsibility for its citizens and children.
Samuel S. Alexander, Broken Arrow
Editor's Note: Oklahoma Attorney Mike Hunter withdrew from talks with the tribal governments about the compacts on Dec. 16. Former state Rep. Lisa Billy resigned as Gov. Kevin Stitt's secretary of Native American Affairs on Dec. 22, citing the governor's "unnecessary conflict" with tribal governments. Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Jan. 3 he hired the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie to represent the state in the dispute.
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